really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
89,155 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2004 BMW 330 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2004 BMW 330 Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #26

Apr 182019


  • 120,000 miles


Passenger side headlight assembly wires break and cause the headlight to stop emitting light or otherwise working. Repeated attempts to repair the wiring harness eventually fail. This occurs with mere normal use of the car and passage of time. The headlight assembly and bulb are still intact, but simply receive no power due to the broken wires. The assembly can fail at any time, whether stationary, in motion, or on back roads or highways. When this issue is googled on this particular car, a 20042006 BMW 3 series E46 coupe with bi-xenon adaptive headlights, many many users report the same issue. No matter the condition, location, and service history of the car, the headlight assembly on the passenger side will always stop working simply because of the wiring. See: Https://forum.E46fanatics.com/showthread.php?T=1073501 if repaired enough times, the assembly becomes unrepairable, at which point the user is stuck driving without a headlight, a dangerous situation to be in. Ordering an incredibly costly $1500 part to replace it is not only costly, but will eventually result in the same critical issue re-appearing because the design is inherently defective. This is a serious safety issue. Other costs include mechanics who insist to customers that the issue is both wiring and the bulb too, causing unsuspecting users to be charged extra for replacement bulbs and the associated labor as well. First occurrence on my car was April 2019, second was October 2019, and third was February 2020 at which point the part was deemed unrepairable. 20042006 BMW 325ci and BMW 330ci with adaptive bi-xenon hid headlights

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #25

Sep 262018


  • 135,000 miles
The adaptive headlights are flickering (stationary or in motion). This points to a faulty wiring issue, according to many other owners reporting this on internet forums for this vehicle.

- Montgomery, OH, USA

problem #24

Sep 082016


  • 100,000 miles
Vehicle adaptive xenon headlight wiring is faulty. Wire insulation is cracking/deteriorating and entire wires are breaking apart. Symptoms start with flickering xenon headlight eventually (about a week later) stops working at all. Vehicle is moving or stationary, engine on. The faulty wires are in a weather sealed compartment of the headlight and have never (to my knowledge) even been unsealed/accessed since leaving the factory. The issue is on the passenger side, unknown if it is on the driver side as well. The attached photo shows back side of the headlight housing looking down, with the weather-sealed compartment open. All exposed wire is as a result of the issue, nobody has actively cut or stripped the wires. Problem first noticed in Sept of 2016, attempts were made to repair but now it has happened again, worse.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #23

May 242017


  • 204,000 miles


My vehicle unexpectedly started on fire as my daughter was driving to school. It was determined that it was an electrical fire, and resulted in the car being totaled. The 2004 models need to be included in the recall (not that it will help with the loss of my car).

- East Bethel, MN, USA

problem #22

Mar 092017


  • 121,127 miles
Vehicle had been sitting parked for several weeks, low battery 9.8 volts. Spontaneously headlights came on smoke filled car, doors would not unlock manually or by remote. Shattered door glass with fire extinguisher. Close inspection appears faulty headlight switch started fire had 8 to 10" flames coming out of left dashboard. Damage to hdlt switch, vents, dash, cluster, a pillar cover. Put out fire myself so no fire dept. Reports.

- Humble, TX, USA

problem #21

Jul 012016


  • 150,000 miles
Headlight wiring jackets flaked off. Had the ballast and bulb replaced in passenger side headlight, because the headlight no longer worked. Noticed that the wiring was bare & looked like someone had clipped 2 of the wires. After replacing both the ballast & headlight it still did not work. But a couple of days after, turned on the headlights and now it works again. I know this is not safe, I see where others have had the same issue. Not sure how to get the new wiring for the headlight or does the whole thing need replaced? it should be a recall with this many cars having the same issue.

- Tumwater, WA, USA

problem #20

Jan 222016


  • 145,000 miles


Ignition system: Vehicle will completely stalled while in motion at low and high velocity speed. Had to completely turn the ignition to off position to be able to restart. I have been keeping track on how often this happens. So far 11 times since ownership.

- Oviedo, FL, USA

problem #19

Oct 042015


  • 42,000 miles
The power door lock on passenger side cannot be unlocked either via remote or inside button. Worse, often when this happens, the door cannot be opened even by pulling on the handle from the inside! a passenger cannot get out of the car via the door. Furthermore, repeatedly attempts to have this fixed all fail within a short time.

- Woodside, CA, USA

problem #18

May 012014


  • miles
I purchased the car, I noticed the headlights where dim. I went out and got new bulbs for my car. I didn't help at all! I can barely see at night and I have to use to fog lights just to be able to drive at night. It is also unlawful to drive with my fog lights on. After much research, it seems that the root case of my headlight being as dim as they are, do to the reflective bowl being burnt out in the headlight it unit. The cost to replace the lights is insane $1000 for a set, just to be able to see at night. It is unsafe to drive at night. It is so bad, that I often don't drive at night because I don't want to put my safe in a bad situation.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #17

Jan 092015

330 6-cyl

  • 128,000 miles
I was not able to unlock my car with my car key. I was able to hear the click sound on pressing the unlock button on the key but nothing was happening. After numerous attempts for about 10 minutes car got unlocked. Now I'm having this problem on/off basis. I took the car to the local BMW dealer. After diagnose they said I have a failed general module which will cost me around $1000. This is way too much for car for it's total value of around $7000. This is scary since I'm not able to trust the locking system on my car. Sometime I'm not able to lock at all and at sometime I'm not able to unlock anything.

- Union City, CA, USA

problem #16

Nov 012014


  • 74,000 miles


The heating element on my 2004 BMW X3 caught on fire while I was driving. I don't use it often, but had noticed a hot smell when I did use it and that it would be too warm in the lumbar and hip region. The fire actually burned about a dime size hole in the driver side left seat panel (under the thigh). After reading of many others having the same or worse experiences, I am glad I immediately shut if off, although it still burned all the way through the leather. Please advise me of next steps I should take. I have shut off the heater and will no longer use it. With so many complaints, I would think this would result in a recall. Thanks for your advice.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #15

Oct 212014


  • 156,000 miles
Wire loosing coating on inside of adaptive headlights, causing shorts or broken wires where the headlights and or turn signals will fail to work. Wire is very brittle as this is also roughly 20 gauge wire. This can be an extreme hazard especially at night. This seems to be affecting BMW's 3/5/6/ series from at least 2004 to 2008 from my independent research. Many pictures and complaints on various BMW forums to document this problem. My problem occurred when I lost one headlight on my way home in the dark and an indicator came on to identify a fault in the headlight. Originally I though it was a bulb, changed bulb and it still did not work. Further investigation led to a broken wire inside of the headlight assembly. I fixed the broken wire and then noticed two more wires where the coating on the wire seem to have flaked off causing bare wire. I also fixed those wires and all was well. A day or two later, the indicator came on again pointing to the same headlight. This time the turn signal was out. I opened the access panel to check the wiring and now a forth wire has been severed, however I can not fix it as it is down pretty far inside the headlight and to repair would require removing the headlight and taking it apart. Apparently BMW used biodegradable wire for the headlights?? source of the headlight is believed to be hella. Supposedly BMW knows about the issue but unwilling to fix unless you purchase a $800-1500 new headlight. This is crazy for a car that is 10 years old and well maintained. This is a safety hazard as you will can loose a headlight in the dark and maybe both headlights going out, plus the fact of bare wires that can short and cause a fire.

- Glendale, AZ, USA

problem #14

Aug 012012

330 6-cyl

  • 45,000 miles
As reported by other owners, the bi-xenon headlights no longer light up the road. It is a safety hazard and is a known issue with headlights manufactured by zkw on 2003-2005 BMW 330 models. The reflector bowls on these units burn out over time and reduce the headlights ability to reflect light. Driving at night is literally no better with the headlights on or off. I have to rely on my fog lights just to see anything. Please look into this safety issue as it is wide-spread. Replacement of headlights is expensive at $1300 ea, this has to be resolved by BMW immediately.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #13

Feb 182013


  • miles
My bi-xenon headlights have been slowly fading resulting in extremely poor visibility during normal nightime driving. This degradation has been occurring without my knowledge until it became obvious after driving another vehicle. As it turns out, my mechanic has advised there is a common issue with certain BMW assemblies that the projector lenses literally burn due to heat resulting in the need to replace the entire assembly. This loss of headlight intensity resulting in poor visibility is a significant safety situation and request someone look into why no recall has occurred as this is obviously a safety concern. I have entered today's date as incident date as I am not sure when degradation of the projectors began.

- Davie, FL, USA

problem #12

Feb 162008

330 6-cyl

  • 80,450 miles
Door locks intermittently will not unlock with switch or remotes. Central locking does not work even when using the key fob. My kids and I have been trapped in the car on several occasions for up to 10 minutes. This is a serious risk to my life and the life of others on the road. BMW refuses to fix this problem. I have video of me trapped in the car. I addressed his problem with BMW before my warranty was up but they state since the technicians could not identity any problem it's not covered. I researched this issue and this is an ongoing problem with other customers.

- Menifee , CA, USA

problem #11

Oct 082012

330 6-cyl

  • 99,960 miles
The general module 5 in E46 3 series model years 2004-2006 fail causing failure of turn signals, central locking, wind shield wipers, and hazard lights. This defect is known by bmwna but has not been addressed.

- Overland Park, KS, USA

problem #10

Aug 092012


  • 94,000 miles
Module that controls central locking, wipers, and several other parts (the GM5) started to develop a fault. We had problems unlocking doors, locking doors, using windows, and worst of all - the wipers were hit or miss. BMW wanted $750 for the part replacement.

- Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #9

Jul 132012


  • 68,000 miles
Dear NHTSA, the headlight design of BMW's E46 bodies are just horrible. Light output is close to none creating a significant problem regarding visibility. The reason is due to BMW's reflector bowl that deteriorates through out time due to its plastic material and finally ends up burning. It is so bad that the fog lights produce much more light then its low beams. We definitely need your help NHTSA because BMW sure does not want to help, their solution is that you have to replace the whole headlight which is 1200 a piece. Millions of E46 owners have to deal with this problem and is a major safety concern. NHTSA investigators must go and investigate the problem so they know how bad it really is. Yes that means BMW will loose millions of dollars but it is safety that matters, we don't want any person or child to be killed just because of a poor headlight design. Only solution to this problem is up to your guys, NHTSA. Thank you for taking time to read my message, I really appreciate it. [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Glendale, CA, USA

problem #8

Jun 262012


  • 92,000 miles
Both bixenon headlamps assemblies have failed on the vehicle they emit little to no light due to the known bowl burn issues with the plastic reflectors (should have been fabricated from metal), inside these headlamp assemblies. In looking at the light assemblies, they seemed to have failed a long time ago. This is a very unsafe and hazardous situation that renders the vehicle basically inoperative at night to the owner, because fellow drivers, pedestrians, and/or bicyclist may be not able to see your headlights. This could cause or may have already lead to fatal vehicular accident(s) or the death of a pedestrian(s) and/or bicyclist(s) because of the low to no light emitted by these faulty headlamps. While performing in depth research on the internet discovered that this is a very common and known problem on this make and model at all mileages. The BMW forums are full of complaints about this problem and an open complaint seems to be open and in process with NHTSA since 2009 some three years ago. Neither BMW or its supplier of this faulty part make a reasonably priced service part that can be purchased to correct this known product and safety problem. Not even the aftermarket industry makes a service part to correct this product problem. To correct this issue, you must purchase two new complete head lamp assemblies at a cost of approximately $ $1,200 each from BMW which is outrageous especially for such a know product and safety problem. I can't understand why a recall has not been initiated for such a known problem on so many vehicles that has been on going for so long.. I contacted BMW North America for relief with this know safety and product problem and they could not help me with this issue because there is no open recall for this known product and safety problem.

- Miami Springs, FL, USA

problem #7

Aug 012011


  • 102,000 miles
Security lock system failed to allow passengers to exit the vehicle. The doors would not unlock and the passengers had to climb out of the windows to exit. If there were an emergency (e.g. car drove into deep water) the windows would not function and there would have been no way to exit the car. Seem like a serious failure.

- Endicott, NY, USA

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